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UTD students’ tech-savvy streak continues

Two years ago, University of Texas at Dallas students Justin Ehlert, Nelson LeDuc and Alex Gwyn, along with graduate student Naveen Tammineni came together and developed an app that provided band schedules for the Richardson Wildflower! Festival. The cool app helped festival-goers with a much-needed tool for tracking concerts beforehand and in an impromptu way on-site.

“It was a pretty cool way to get hands-on experience for our future and to help the city,” Ehlert said.

That August, Ehlert and his roommates, LeDuc, Gwyn and Austin Schwartz launched a new company, Jump Space Apps, which they run out of their Richardson apartment.

Ehlert, a member of the UTD baseball team, is the company’s president. Now juniors, all are computer science students who are juggling going to school full time, college activities — oh, and running a company that has already developed apps for many clients in the past two years.

“We get a lot of proposals but we are honest with our prospective clients and let them know that to take on a project, we have to be passionate about it,” he said. “There are a lot of great ideas out there but since we are putting so much time into the project, we need to be as excited about developing this app as they are before we take it on.”

An ongoing client has been the city of Richardson. The first year, Ehlert and his team developed the app for free. Last year, the city paid the developers a fee for updates.

“A lot of times people believe that once you develop an app that you are done with it,” he said. “That isn’t true. Changes and updates need to be made each year.”

Before taking on the city’s project in 2013, Ehlert had already designed UTD Eats — like any app, one designed by a need.

“The idea came from my freshman year at school,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I was annoyed walking to the dining hall and finding it closed. I developed the app so students would know the hours of all on-campus and off- restaurants.”

From this app came the creation, U Eats, now offering the same service to other college campuses like the University of Texas in Austin, Baylor University and the University of Florida.

A few weeks ago, Ehlert, Gwyn, LeDuc and fellow UTD student Colin Campbell tied with another UTD team for first place at the Capital One Coding for Good Hackathon. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak served on the judging panel. Their app, FinanSir offers financial advice based on personal spending habits. The team won $5,000 and a new iPad Minis autographed by Wozniak.

Rubbing elbows with the likes of Wozniak has inspired these 20-year-old, tech-savvy gurus, who have quite an arsenal of apps they’ve developed: Cell Spell converts a phone number into an easy-to-remember set of words; Equation Solver solves for one variable in any equation; and What’s Going Down provides details of events taking place in the Dallas area.

While Ehlert and his Jump Space Apps colleagues are always looking for new clients, it will set one back at least $5,000. But he notes that is lower than the market price the big app companies charge.

“Every project we take on, we live and breathe it,” he said. “When we graduate, we will already have four years of experience under our belts. We want our clients to see the passion and excitement we bring to their project. Although we are also college students, they will see that we work harder. We may not be the bigger pricier companies, but we will produce results.”

Celebrity sighting

Spotted at Sherrill Park Golf Course: David Feherty, former PGA golf pro and CBS golf commentator. I’ve known David since I did a piece on him years ago when I was a staff reporter with People magazine. I had the tough gig of traveling with David to Pebble Beach Golf Course in California following Tiger Woods during play.

Source: Dallas Morning News – Article written by Chris Coats 

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